gardening and cancer

June 23, 2011


yes, i know.  it’s so beautiful in my little brooklyn backyard.  from the wet, muddy pit that it was about 22 years ago when i first moved in to the beautiful quirky yard filled with roses, basil and burgeoning tomatoes and cucumbers not to mention overgrown patches of irises – my backyard is our own little oasis.  when i was just out of treatment – 5 years ago this summer – i wasn’t up for much.  i remember walking down the street in park slope, brooklyn near my work, and seeing a beautiful flowering vine.  it wasn’t clematis…which are vines i have many of against the fences.  i bought it immediately and sometime in the next week, planted it near the foot of my climbing yellow roses.   i don’t remember much of that summer but i remember sitting on the back rocker just watching my garden and thinking that so few people took the time to sit in their garden.   late that fall, i finally looked up the vine that i planted and, much to my horror, found out that the red trumpet vine that i had purchased and planted was deemed to be one of the most invasive vines around…it would take over and strangle all else.  without a moment’s hesitation, i went to my yard, dug up the vine, and discarded it. 

last week, i took time out from a busy work schedule to delay heading into the office – i gave myself an hour in the cool morning to get down on my knees and really focus on weeding out a patch of the garden.  one by one i plucked out the usual offenders…the rain had made them easy to grab so that their roots came out – giving me hope that i was winning the weeding game.  then i looked over and stared.  there it was.  at the foot of the yellow climbing roses…the telltale green vine that said that my excavation 4.5 years earlier was a fool’s errand.  invasive vine.  it seemed the very definition of invasive.  it was still there.  and growing.  and probably spreading.  and i started crying.  in my own garden.  a cruel reminder that you never know that what you think has been taken out of  you isn’t still growing.  i hate cancer.   i’ve gone back into my garden … but it took a few days.  i hate cancer. 



the calm before the dusty storm

August 4, 2010


sluggy summer days – wonderful husband and i are enjoying our ‘quiet’ time together whilst teenage daughter is at camp.  tho there are the nights (and days) when we ache for her – each phone call from her tells us that she is rockin’ her summer with happiness and great friends but we surely miss her.  we’re continuing our summer tradition of taking long brooklyn walks together – often in the early morning before the worst of the summer heat sets in.  we like to walk past the houses – some in enormous disrepair and others looking like they were renovated with no regard to the historic nature of their neighborhood (really: ionic columns on a vinyl-sided 2 story house???).   the garden is churning out more tomatoes and cucumbers than we can eat in a week.  my contractor is thrilled to be the recipient of edible gifts each time he visits to remeasure some corner of the kitchen.

mostly, we’re getting ready for the big rip-out.  final contract signing with our contractor today.  appliances ordered, sink and faucet ordered (all after enormous research and even then, i know something won’t feel right or work right) and now, still worrying through the choice of flooring – but hoping that decision … no, giving ourselves the deadline that that decision will be made by friday.  a backsplash and some lights and we’re almost in the end-run of the gabillion decisions we’ve had to make.  phew.  now we just have to live through the dust, noise, and lack of actual kitchen floor.   

where is she?

December 4, 2009

it’s the year of independence.  for some it’s earlier and others later but for our teenage daughter, turning 15 tomorrow, it’s this 9th grade year.  tho her dad likes to walk her to the subway in the morning – claiming that he needs the exercise but really because he just loves being with her and she with him … they are the proverbial two peas in the pod – she’s taking the subway to school and often back home.  for the past few days letting herself in the house.  i work close to her school and as i am a freelancer, i am often available to give her a ride back.  but also often not.  we want her to be confident and independent in the world – especially navigating her native brooklyn and nyc.   it’s an interesting time for a girl with her head often lost in the clouds of thought.

so far this week, she’s forgotten her phone; then forgotten her key (she happily sat in the back yard waiting and doing homework but i also presume, just grooving on the cool fall garden); then forgotten to answer her phone; then her phone went dead today.  none of this phases her.  much of it phases me.  i figure i’ve really done my job right as a parent if i can get it into her head that she needs to go out into nyc prepared and that simply means: cell phone, wallet with a modest amount of bills and change, house key and a loaded metro card. 

i am baffled that i am about to celebrate my beautiful daughter’s 15th birthday tomorrow.  she came into the world 4 weeks early and weighed a whopping 3 lbs 14 ounces and was feisty as a little prizefighter.  her grandma marianne called her an ‘imperious imp.’  truer words have rarely been spoken.  she’s brave and quirky and uninterested in being like everyone else.  she fits in and doesn’t fit in.  i worry for her and i hope she finds a way to give all her gifts to the world.  but mostly, i often want to know:  where the heck is she?   happy birthday to my wonderful girl.

best laid plans of …

May 25, 2009


me and me…oh well.  whatever the creeping crud was that hit teenage daughter and husband caught up with me.  husband got the brunt of it…suffered with fever for 3 days then gallantly played his gig last night.  i have simply been an onslaught of dripping down the back of my throat and itchy ears.  i shouldn’t be surpised…hearing about so many people with variations on a theme. 

on the good side:  spent much of the past 2 days in my garden.  i’d put in a few cukes then feel dizzy and sit in the shade.  repeat repeat repeat.  basil, tomatoes; cukes; hot peppers.  most everything is planted and i acknowledge that i have too many vining plants.  i love the look of things spilling over the sides of containers.  sweet peas; ivy geranium; baby petunias, becopa, thyme and oregano.  that’s not to mention the many clematis vines all growing on trellises.  the climbing yellow roses are bursting with an almost obscene push.  the irises just pour scent through the back corner of my little brooklyn garden.  i added new coreopsis – last year’s didn’t survive and i adore coreopsis..those yellow flowers seem so cheery and add a good dose of yellow to my very blue and purple-laden garden. 

so no bbq.  no guests.  but some nice quiet time in my house and garden that i haven’t had in a while.  not such a bad thing.  now if the ringing in my ears would just stop….


lost in my backyard

May 20, 2009


i love holiday weekends because they give me an excuse not to work (ok, i’m sneaking in at least 2 appointments but it feels less obligatory).  i intend to sleep late saturday morning and find my way into my garden and then organize for a nice bbq with a family we’re getting to know.  my kind of gathering: 4 adults, 2 teenagers, a hiding cat and a visiting well-behaved dog.  all, hopefully, outside in the garden.  the irises are in bloom and there are beautiful yellow climbing roses, 2 of at least 7 clematis vines in bloom and even the newly planted tomato plants are starting to look established as they climb upwards.  still a lot of weeding to be done and basil to be planted – i’m hoping no one notices. 

and late lunch/dinner in the garden! 

Cheeses and Olives

Grilled Flank Steak over Arugula

dressed with olive oil and lemon

Orzo with Pesto, Cherry Tomatoes and mint

Grilled Asparagus

One big crusty bagette

and then, another day to laze about.  oh happy holiday weekend! 


new seasons

May 4, 2009


i never cared that much for spring..i still love the fall better but i now find my heart and hopes flutter at the start of spring. i think part of it is growing up.  as you get older and realize that you’re truly getting older and there’s no going back, the cliche of the ‘promise of spring’ becomes less cliche and more immediate.  i had my surgery in late november.  i felt fine on my birthday in mid-october (2005); found a lump the next week; diagnosed the following week; surgery in late-november and then started chemo in mid-january.  i know that there are some people who breeze through chemo.  i was not one of them.  it takes me months – oh, let’s face it, sometimes years – to understand some life concepts.  being told that i had cancer was not a concept i integrated in a few months.  i could barely acknowledge it as i was forced to sign living wills and negotiate to not have a chemo port installed.  i had so much anxiety that i willingly and gratefully ingested xanax after xanax just so that i could breathe – or some semblance of breathing – hour to hour.  i fell down an emotional rabbit hole so deep that the nurses climbed down, hooked up the iv, and then climbed out again while i looked at the deep walls of the hole around me.  i had a few very very very very dear work friends who kept me going, who made me work, who made me attempt to function.  Perhaps they saw what i could not.  that i would find the ladder up and out.  if i can do for someone else what they did for me that year, then i will truely be on my way to being a good person. 

during the spring – i sat every day that i could very quietly with my little cotton-rimmed cap on my very bald head on my back rocking bench.  and i watched my garden come to life.  i have a little garden by many standards.  brooklyn yards mostly don’t come large.  but i had slowly worked over the years to change this sad and swampy mosh pit into a welcoming garden.  and the odd and offbeat reward, that spring, sitting on my back rocking bench with no hair and my cotton-rimmed cap on was to be able to be more still than i had ever been.  to see the sprouting of my garden.  to see the start of it’s above-ground life as it budded and stretched it’s many vines.  i saw something i would never have seen otherwise.  this growing jewel.  in the past, i never cared that much for spring..i still love the fall better but i now find my heart and hopes flutter at the start of spring.


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